What Does it Mean to be a Disciple?

One of my classes during the fall semester was on discipleship and evangelism. I confess I wasn’t thrilled about the class, since I had previously read a number of the books and both were topics that had frequently been addressed in Sunday school classes and seminars I had attended. But the personal interaction and assignments made it very helpful, and reading Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” greatly influenced my view of what it means to be a disciple.

If a disciple is “one who accepts and assists in the spreading the doctrines of another,” then discipleship would be the lifestyle of a disciple and teaching others how to be a follower of a certain other. In the case of Christianity, this would mean discipleship is a lifestyle of following the teaching of Jesus, and thus become like Him, even as we teach others to do the same. Being a disciple of Christ isn’t simply reciting a creed; this would not require trust in the leader (Coleman, 51-52). Jesus “did not urge his disciples to commit their lives to a doctrine, but to a person who was the doctrine” (Coleman, 56). Thus, true discipleship requires of the disciple “absolute obedience to the Master’s will, even as it meant complete abandonment of their own” (Coleman, 59). Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoes this idea when he says, “Discipleship betokened the separation of the disciples from all their old ties, and an exclusive adherence to Jesus Christ” (Bonhoeffer, 203). This means that the Christian “belongs to Christ alone, and his relationship with the world is mediated through Him” (Bonhoeffer, 257). That is what it means to be a disciple.

Discipleship, then, would be living out this abandonment to Christ in one’s own life and teaching others to do the same. Despite popular opinion, this is not primarily done through large events and formalized programs. Coleman writes, “One cannot transform the world except as individuals in the world are transformed, and individuals cannot be changed except as they are molded in the hands of the Master” (Coleman, 30). The best model for discipleship is Jesus’ own: “life-schooling” a select few “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up,” (Deut. 6:7). This means bringing others to see the Father and thus become more like Him, through prayer, life in the church, and the study and application of scripture to personal life, instilling in them a greater love and worship of God that allows them to turn from all earthly ties and be bound to Christ alone” (Bonhoeffer, 68). Just as following Christ in your own life requires great cost, so making disciples is also costly. This cost is not that we are purchasing our discipleship, but proving the worth of the One we follow by abandoning our own will for His. But the cost is worth it, and near the end of his book Bonhoeffer offers encouragement:

“The goal is to become ‘as Christ.’ Christ’s followers always have his image before their eyes, and in its light all other images are screened from their sight. It penetrates into the depths of their being, fills them, and makes them more and more like their Master. The image of Jesus Christ impresses itself in daily communion on the image of the disciple. No follower of Jesus can contemplate his image in a spirit of cold detachment. That image has the power to transform our lives, and if we surrender ourselves utterly to him, we cannot help bearing his image ourselves. We become the sons of God, we stand side by side with Christ, our unseen Brother, bearing like him the image of God.” (Bonhoeffer, 337)

“Because He really lives his life in us, we too can… it is only because he became like us that we can become like him. It is only because we are identified with him that we can become like him. By being transformed into his image, we are enabled to model our lives on his. Now at least deeds are performed and life is lived in single-minded discipleship in the image of Christ and his words find unquestioning obedience. We pay no attention to our own lives or the new image which we bear, for then we should at once have forfeited it, since it is only to serve as a mirror for the image of Christ on whom our gaze is fixed. The disciple looks solely at his Master. But when a man follows Jesus Christ and bears the image of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Lord, when he has become the image of God, we may at last say that he has been called to be the ‘imitator of God.’ The follower of Jesus is the imitator of God.” (Bonhoeffer, 344)

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship, The Macmillan Company, USA, 1969
Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Evangelism, Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids, MI. 1993.

Note on Bonhoeffer: he has much good to offer in The Cost of Discipleship, despite being not fully orthodox in his theology. There is a sense of this in Cost of Discipleship but there were only a few times I could actually put my finger on something that was off.

February 2019

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Lots of snow this month! It was never very much (this was the most we had) but it happened frequently.

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I finished the quilt I was making for my friend… and remembered why I hadn’t quilted in so long. I love it and it’s rewarding, but doing it alone is lonely. But it was fun to think about how many quilts Hannah and I had made together and now I was making one for her baby, and some of the fabric was even the same as in the first quilt we made together!

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The first snow we had was very powdery and this was the best I could do… Ezra later built a bigger one when it snowed later on.

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I love soft pretzels and we had a lot of fun making them.

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Some of S’s naptime artwork.

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Ezra’s friend came to visit from the East Coast and we drove a bit to take him hiking.

memorization// Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting

favorite recipes// sourdough pancakes (I thin the initial batter a little more or adding eggs in the morning can be a nightmare) // no bake cookies // beet oatmeal chocolate chip (breakfast) cookies // brownie batter breakfast bake (S keeps asking for this again!) // sourdough soft pretzels //

best of online// one family’s morning time // ***My Mother Practiced the Piano (so so good about the value of our kids seeing us do things!) // Five Reasons God Made You a Mother // Jesus, See The Traveler (Sara Groves song) // family history // Love Made Us: Trinitarian love in Creation // Mommy Wars are Spirit Wars (Genesis 3:15, anyone? Also, this is for EVERY woman) // joining the chorus: global persecution // how to fight anger in motherhood // music and your core //

reading of late// Covenant (Schreiner) // Salt Fat Acid Heat (Nosrat) // Hannah Coulter (Berry) // The Lifter of My Head (McRoberts) // finished Because He Loves Me (Fitzpatrick) // The Long Fall (Wilcock) // This Isn’t What I Expected (Kleiman) //

what brings joy// sunshine // ballet storytimes // music // Les Miserables // good books

The Munchkins// S loves to “play school” with E and they frequently disappear into our room to sing and tell stories. They are both obsessed with wearing swimsuits around the house.

Tokyo Attraction

inspired by reading “Kissed on Arrival” by Rob Holmes, we’ve started writing down some of our own stories from our travels.

I had been in Japan less than a month and Ezra less than a day when my family came to visit. We were all relatively clueless when it came to deciding what to see and do while they were there. Much research and deliberation later, we were on our way into Tokyo for two days. Asakusa, the Imperial Palace gardens, a tea ceremony, skyline views from the Tokyo Government Building, and lots of delicious food were on our agenda.
As we stood on the thirtieth floor of the Tokyo Government Building looking out the windows and noticing all sorts of unique buildings, road patterns, and gardens, a gathering crowd had noticed us. More specifically, they had noticed our white-blonde, blue eyed, fair-skinned eleven month old who was charming them with her extroversion. Her grins and waves were met with squeals of “Kawaii!!!” (cute) and phones began coming out of pockets and purses. I looked at Ezra and whispered, “We may not post her picture on Facebook but I guess we can’t keep it from being all over Japan.”
After a while we extricated ourselves from the scene and headed towards the Imperial Palace Gardens, where we found ourselves in a similar situation – only this time S was out of the stroller and soon was being passed around a circle of Japanese women. “If we had a dollar for every ‘kawaii’ it would pay for our travels in Japan,” Ezra told me.
But soon even our social toddler had had enough and snuggled back down in the baby carrier as we continued our time in Tokyo.
Over the next year, many varieties of those incidents were repeated, making us thankful that S was so friendly and not bothered by the strangers who loved her so much. She was often the recipient of snacks and sometimes even small gifts – like the time she was crying, cold, and starving and an elderly couple we were afraid we had scared away handed her a plush ornament with Aflack ducks that sang the theme song in Japanese (we still have the ornament but thankfully it no longer sings).
Friends asked Ezra and I if it bothered us, and for the most part, it didn’t – and it even reminded both of us of our childhood. As a blonde, blue-eyed toddler in Amman, Jordan, my hair was frequently touched (to the point where I walked around with my hands on my head) my cheeks squeezed, and once I was whisked inside a house and shown to a stranger’s family. Likewise Ezra, also blonde and blue-eyed, was followed around grocery stores in Micronesia.
We and our families may have been seeing the world, but sometimes still ended up the main attraction.

Working For Your Marriage in Time Apart

I knew from the start of our relationship that if Ezra and I got married, we would have periods of time apart, potentially lengthy ones. After counting the cost, we decided it would be worth it. That didn’t, however, make it easy when those separations actually happened, nor did it mean we knew how to handle them in a way that strengthened our marriage. We made a lot of mistakes, mistakes that took two years to recover from. Now that we’re out of that season of our life and can look back, I’m starting to see what I wish I had known as we entered our second year of marriage and two years of Ezra coming and going every few weeks/months.

*OVER communicate. I don’t mean just let it all out with no filter. But don’t worry about sharing the little things about what you’ve been up to, the ways schedules and routines have changed, how the kids are developing, how you are feeling – even if it’s that you’re really having a hard time with him coming home (to me it often felt like he was an intruder, but I didn’t know how to express that). If he doesn’t know, you can’t do anything to work through those feelings together, and they won’t just go away if you ignore them. Ask lots of questions, especially the returning spouse. Talk about what’s working and not working and expectations for time together (preferably in advance!). (practical tip: write daily emails, and/or keep a notebook of how things have changed so you can quickly update the returning spouse).

*Even though there is a “normal” emotional cycle for temporary separations for work (such as, but not limited to, deployments), the emotions you experience still need work. I naively didn’t deal with a lot of what I was feeling (which was not just related to Ezra’s schedule but also to moving so frequently) because I knew what I was feeling was “normal” and that in the emotional cycle, it would pass (especially since we knew when his home/gone schedule would change). But it won’t if you don’t process those stages personally and as a couple. Pay attention to those signals and what they are telling you about what you need from your spouse and your community, and then communicate that to others. The cycle being normal also does not mean you don’t get help when it’s hard, especially if you are stuck emotionally in one phase.

*Not all marriage advice applies. There are lots of tips that under normal circumstances will help, but that in the abnormal situation of a spouse coming and going can exacerbate an already difficult situation. So as with any advice, even the “standard” advice, you have to apply it to your situation with wisdom, and if it’s not working, then assess its validity for you – whether it has to do with roles, chores, expressions of affection, or ways you strengthen your marriage. Nor do you need to feel guilty if you think that the way you do things is different from others in your situation (for example, when Ezra got home I wanted to see him a lot for a day or two and then wanted a lot of space to ease into having him back. So him taking time off right when he got back was not good for us!).

I can’t say that having known all of this in advance would have meant we would have handled the constant adjustments well. We still would have been dealing with sin in each of our hearts in a pressured environment. Additionally, so much of the strength of a marriage is built on little moments of putting the other person before you (see “What Did You Expect” by Paul Tripp), and when they’re gone, you can’t do that. But at the very least, we would have been able to understand more of what was going on inside us in a way that allowed us to graciously communicate it to the other.

For another wife’s perspective, check out my friend’s post here.

Nursing my Babies

This IS a post about breastfeeding, so I recommend males not read it, though I did try to keep it as G as possible since it IS public online. This is also NOT in any way intended to be prescriptive or what I think people should do; it’s just my story. I have a longer version for anyone interested.

I had been warned it would be hard.
I had known it might not come naturally.
I had read books and it was covered in our birth classes.

But until you are actually trying to breastfeed your own baby, you don’t really know what it will be like. You don’t know the size of your baby’s mouth. You don’t know if she’ll have a tongue tie. You don’t know if you’ll have enough milk.

After S was born, we were discharged from the birth center with a syringe, a plastic spoon, a shield, and directions to return the next day if she didn’t start nursing, because S still hadn’t latched well enough and long enough to have a good feed. After a lot of time and support, we made it work.

But that was only the beginning. By the time she was four months old I had had mastitis 2 maybe 3 times and at least ten plugged ducts. My milk sprayed everywhere; S choked and spluttered, and the amount and speed at which my milk came out contributed to her silent reflux. Often I had to hold a wiggly, hangry baby while holding towels to catch the letdown when she came off and wait for it to pass before she could latch back on. I had the same issue after E was born, but avoided mastitis due to S still nursing and being able to alleviate oversupply.

Thankfully, my supply evened out by around four months, and after that it became easy and enjoyable. We started solids around 6 months, but from then until about 18 months she nursed every 2 hours during the day, and nothing I did could change that, unless I was actually gone. E did the same thing for a while, and I know from how pumped milk looks that my milk is “low fat” so my guess is that’s why.

When S was 14 months I found out I was pregnant with E, and decided to keep nursing if I could and she wanted to. I was willing to tandem nurse as long as S knew she couldn’t just ask for milk whenever she wanted. My supply dropped at 18 weeks, and S dropped to two feeds a day on her own.

After birth, E nursed twice within the first two hours of her birth. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. She was much slower than S, but still not slow to the point of feeding her being the only thing I was doing. Oversupply was still difficult, but more manageable despite the daily episode of spit up requiring new clothes for me and her and scrubbing the couch.

I weaned S shortly before she turned 3. She was still obsessed with mommy milk, but I was done. We provided a few days’ worth of after-nap treats, and then that was it. She was a little grumpy, but it wasn’t terrible.
E dropped down to one feed mostly on her own – she stopped asking for some of them, and I was at the point where I wasn’t as excited about nursing her, so I just let it be. Her 2nd birthday was the last time she nursed, and has only asked about it once since then.

3 years, 22 months, and 4 days of nursing, and definitely worth it. If we have another, I want to be ready from the start to deal with oversupply. I also want to be more in tune with how breastfeeding is affecting me emotionally, to know if/when I need to draw boundaries, whether that’s stopping completely, pumping for Ezra to do a feed, or supplementing for some feeds. I know in the mommy wars there are slogans of “fed is best” and “breast is best” and I don’t want to get into all that but in addition to baby being FED, mama needs to be SANE. And while I respect so many people all over the spectrum of baby feeding choices, the moms that amaze me are the ones who have wanted to breastfeed their babies, give it 110%, but know when they’ve hit their limit and need to change how they do things.

My advice to first time moms:
1. Have a good support system – husband, family, lactation consultants, birth providers, etc. Talk with them about what your goals are – how hard you want to try, what signs would signal you should stop, how you want your husband to help you, etc.
2. If you have ANY reason whatsoever to think there’s something that will make it more difficult don’t hesitate to ask before the baby is born.

January 2019

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My brother gave me a bar of Preemptive Love’s sisterhood soap for Christmas. The soap is nice and I love the faint chamomile scent – not overwhelming but it’s there and I catch a whiff throughout the day. The best part, though, is the reminder to pray for Iraq and Syria in the shower. I’m trying to establish prayer points throughout my daily routine and that’s my first one.

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While I was away, Ezra found a nearby park with a duck pond so we went again. The girls absolutely loved them, and there was quite a variety!

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S has been a very reluctant artist, but lately she has really taken off drawing faces and suns, and trying to draw snowmen.

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I’ll do a full review eventually, but we have been enjoying cooking with Ottolenghi’s new book, Simple. While the recipes aren’t all that simple by a lot of standards, I have regularly made 2-3 recipes for one meal, which would have been outrageous to have done with most recipes in Jerusalem. So far we have been most surprised by how some seemingly very simple recipes have turned out to be very tasty. A few have been as unexciting as they sounded, though, and there are some we probably won’t ever cook, mostly due to my aversion to bell peppers.

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Celebrating our 5th anniversary with an evening at the symphony! The first piece was Music for the Dinners of King Ubu which was very modern but it helped to have the conductor’s explanation and program notes to understand that it really was in many ways a musical joke. The highlight was Shostakovich’s cello concerto which was absolutely haunting, and really could be explained as a “PTSD concerto” because of the memories Shostakovich was dealing with. The Rossini overture was a Rossini overture, very similar to the two I’ve played, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture was fantastic as usual.

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Colorful, fragrant preserving lemons.

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Ciabatta. Probably the most intensive bread I’ve made but so worth it.

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My big project this month was a baby quilt. I had forgotten how time intensive quilting is, and I’m sure a lot of that has to do with how much more enjoyable it is to do with friends. Seam ripping especially stinks when you’re alone, and no matter how much I double check I always end up doing a lot of it. But it’s always worth it in the end, especially when it’s for a close friend who’s the first of my close friends to be having a baby, and the friend I used to make baby quilts with in and after high school. So I think my favorite part of this quilt is that it includes one or two fabrics that we used in the first quilt we made together.

But the most notable news of January is that Ezra’s older brother proposed, in an elaborate proposal scheme that resulted in a number of people seemingly spontaneously being at the same place in the same time. It also included princess dresses and flower crowns and little friends for the girls. I have never seen S so happy and the girls keep asking to go back to that park.
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It was nap time for poor E but she insisted on trying to keep up with the other girls… though often ended up wandering around on her own.

memorization// Jesus, I am Resting Resting
favorite recipes//
sourdough drop biscuits // maple almond shortbread // chocolate hummus // 100% rye flour muffins // rose harissa – a lot of recipes in Simple call for this, but I think you could just as well use regular harissa //

best of online//  many have probably read this, but the letter the pastor of Early Rain Church in China wrote is a must-read // fighting for joy after trying everything (“struggling has the hope of success, forsaking the struggle does not.”) // social justice: history repeats itself // D.A. Carson: An Introduction to Biblical Theology // Spiritual Family: A Bond More Enduring than Marriage (good food for thought, related to Wesley Hill’s book) // arrow tail quilt tutorial // C.S. Lewis on Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert – streaming on Amazon // good writers // Christian and Gay: Stories, Questions, Resources // 8 Herbalists on Depression // Charlotte Mason preschool guide //

reading of late// my dad’s extensive notes on The Problem of Slavery in Christian America (McDermott) // God’s Guidance: A Slow and Certain Light (Elisabeth Elliot) // Spiritual Friendship (Wesley Hill) // Contending for Our All (Piper – started in 2018 as a “car book” with Ezra) // Christ from Beginning to End (Hunter and Wellum, skimmed) // Hansi: The GIrl Who Loved the Swastika (Hirschmann)

thinking about// PPD and the armor of God (Eph 6:1-10) //

what brings joy// Shostakovich // sunshine // feta cheese // 45 minutes of 20+ people praying for Syria // carnival of the animals narrated by Leonard Bernstein //

The Munchkins// S cut her hair because it was “in her eyes.” Then she cut a chunk out of E’s and gave her some layers. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and was glad Ezra was home to help me know what to do. I took them to the hair dresser later, and in the end was mostly just relieved that no body parts had been cut! S now has bangs and E has a pixie cut.

writing a belated Christmas poem

In Love With the Little Years

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When they hear our girls are 4 and 2 and less than two years apart, many people comment that I must be very busy and have my hands full. That’s not untrue (I stopped typing that first sentence to supply a not-napping toddler with an extra blanket because she “needed something to keep her feet warm” in our very warm bed), but lately I’ve found myself becoming more aware of how life will change as they get older and that has led to me treasuring these years.

I love that we can sit at home and do nothing if we’re in need of a day (or two or three) like that, since we don’t “have to” do school or be places other than church.
I love how easy they are to pick up and carry around.
I love watching their personalities blossom.
I love how they bring me book after book to read to them.
I love all the silly things they say.
I love how they want to be involved in so many things I do.
I love how they love learning things and think the library is just about the greatest place on the planet.
I love rest/nap time in the middle of the day.
I love how they shower affection, forgive, say sorry, and move on from my sin without holding a grudge.
I love that food brings them such great delight.
I love that I can give them so much attention and be so fully involved without older children needing my attention.
I love their imaginations.
I love the questions they ask.
I love their love for each other.
I love wondering who they will become.
I love watching them copy us, especially in learning to pray.
I love their shrieks and squeals (the delighted ones).
I love that they believe mommy and papa can do pretty much anything.
I love how easy they are to entertain and make laugh.
I love hearing their hopes for “when I get big.”
I love how easily they find wonder and delight in simple things.

Of course, it’s different for each family, with personalities, life circumstances, ages, and number of children. And I could make a likely longer list of all the things I won’t miss about this stage of life… but I won’t, because they’re all things worth putting up with in order to love these littles.